What is the name of Allah?
It is very common among muslims to hear - "Allah is the personal name of God and Allah has 99 attributive names".
However, this statement opens door for several questions.
There is a personal name of almighty God?
He has only 99 attributive names? And all in arabic only?
What about other language names for God?
Is Allah "arabic" God?
Is God of muslims is specific to arabian peninsula or arabic language at least?
What about Krishna, yahowa, ishwar etc? Are they not the name of God?
B. Can Almighty God have a personal name?
It is said that Allah is the personal name (zaati naam) of almighty God. There are 99 attributive name (sifati naam) of Allah. Please ponder over the term personal name.
Who named mobile phone as mobile phone?
Who named mount Everest as mount Everest?
Who named Albert Einstein as Albert Einstein?
Who named Lamborghini car as Lamborghini?
The answer to all above questions is - the producer, the discoverer or the one who owned it named it so. To name something i.e. to give a personal name there MUST be an entity over and above that thing. Then only that particular thing can be named. My son is called as Ammar imam because i have named him so. There must be someone before ammar imam who will name him so.
Now when one say that personal name of Almighty God is Allah - then a very logical and natural Question arises: Who was there before Allah who named him so? Who decided that Allah should be the personal name of Allah? And that also why only an arabic name? Is Almighty God specific to Arabic language? Billion dollar question is - can God have a personal name?
1. There is no personal name of almighty God. All names of God are attributive names.
2. The one who is the master, creator, sustainer, ..(You can add all possible attributes of almighty God) is the one who alone is worthy to be worshipped. He is the one almighty God.
3. One who is worthy to be worshipped is called Allah in arabic language. Arabic word Allah is made up of two words - Al (The) + Ilah (Worthy to be worshipped).
4. Did not pre-islamic pagans of arabs used to address their supreme God as Allah?
5. Allah or Almighty God existed when there was no language viz: Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew.
Note: I am aware of some people's opinion that Allah is not made up of Al+ilah rather its one personal name of God. I respect their view but find it wrong because it is based on the wrong assumption that Almighty God has personal name Allah.
C. The myth of personal name of Allah
"Say: "Invoke Allah or invoke the Most Gracious (Al Rahmaan), by whatever name you invoke Him (it is the same), for to Him belong the most beautiful Names (Asma ul husna)"- Quran, Surah Isra 17:110
1. The Ayah says that whether you call Allah or Al-Rahman; you can call him by any name as long as it is the most beautiful name.
2. Message of Allah has come into different regions of the world and in different language. It is obvious that Almighty God would have addressed himself in those revelations in that language and not in Arabic. The message of Allah in Persian language would have mentioned Almighty God in Persian language. Similarly the revelation of Allah in Sanskrit language would had terms in Sanskrit language that would denote Almighty God.
3. There is very close resemblance in the root word for "worthy to be worshipped" / "Allah" in languages like Arabic, Hebrew etc. Not going into details of these.
4. Previous ummah upholding the message of God would have addressed almighty God in their language. Since Quran is in arabic hence we have the arabic word Allah.
5. The above ayah makes clear that God can be called by any name that is most beautiful and befits the God. In fact - all good qualities in its extreme form refers to Almighty God only. There is no limit to the number of attributive names of God. His all names are depending upon a quality.
6. Hence in dawah one can refer to Almighty God as Ishwar, mahaprabhu, Sarwshaktimaan, ajanma etc.
D. Hadees regrading 99 names of Allah
1. There are few ahadees that speaks about 99 names of Allah. for example:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah has ninety-nine Names, i.e., one hundred minus one, and whoever believes in their meanings and acts accordingly, will enter Paradise; and Allah is Witr (one) and loves 'the Witr' (i.e., odd numbers). (Sahih Bukhari, Book #75, Hadith #419). Also Sahih Bukhari, Book #50, Hadith #894
2. However there is a hadees in trimdhi that speaks about certain 99 names of Allah. The hadees of trimdhi that speaks about certain 99 names and put the list of 99 names has been deemed week by the scholars. The list of 99 names was inserted by the narrator Al Walid Ibn Muslim. This hadees has been judged weak by many hadith scholars such as al-Tirmidhi himself, al-Nawawi, ibn Hajar, ibn Taymiyyah, ibn al-Qayyim, ibn Kathir, al-San’ani and others.
Without going into detail i would like to just point out that:
1. As evident with many ahadees, one need not to take every word of hadees literally. 99 names does not indicate that only 99 names. For example- Sahih Bukhari, Book #50, Hadith #894 says that Allah has 99 names and whoever knows them will go to Paradise. One should not conclude that just by knowing 99 names of Allah one will get jannah. Taking it literary will create havoc. Lot of mushrik can just memorize these 99 names and claim that they are entitled for jannah because they know these names as per this hadees. Similarly 99 does not mean only 99, rather it signifies lot of names.
2. Scholars like Ibn Taimiyah, Ibnul Qayyim have made clear that hadees saying Allah has 99 names; does not mean only 99. Imam Nawawi states:"The scholars agree that this hadith did not limit the Names of Allah and this is not what it is supposed to mean, that Allah do not have Names other than these 99 Names.What is meant in this hadith is that, anyone who managed to encompass ( memorize and understand ) these Names will enter paradise. So it was intended to inform us on the condition for the entry of paradise, and not limit the Names of Allah."
3. There are so many names of Allah in the Quran that are not mentioned in ahadees.For example:
Dhul Fadhl: (Mentioned in Quran, Surah Baqrah 2:105)
Dhul Arsh: (Mentioned in Quran, Surah 85:15)
Dhil Ma'aarij: (Mentioned in Quran, Surah Marij 70:3)
Dhul Jalali wal Ikram: (Mentioned in Quran, Surah rahmaan 55:27, 78)
Dhul Tawl: (Mentioned in Quran, Surah momin 40:3)
Ar Rabb: (Mentioned in Quran, Surah Fatiha 1:1)
Researchers have found far more than 99 attributes of Allah from Quran. There is no restriction of language or number of names of Almighty God.
E. Claim of ISKCON : Krishna - name of God?
Those of you who are into interfaith interaction, would have encountered situation when an ISKCON / hare krishna group person would have said that krishna is also name of Allah. ISKCON / hare krishna is a sect of Hinduism and believes Krishna to be supreme God. They tell to muslims that Krishna and Allah are same and Krishna is one of the name of Allah. One need to remember following things:
1. Krishna refers to the person who was part of Mahabharat - an epic. The epic has no correlation with reality. Only with the passage of time people started believing this mythological story as real story.
2. Apart from that, as per the story; Krishna was a man, who was born, who died. He can never ever remotely be called God.
3. Last but not least - As Quran says in 17:110 that all beautiful names belong to Almighty God. krishna means "black". Black is usually symbol of negative / devil / ignorance and hence can never ever apply to Almighty God.
1. It is a misconception that the almighty GOD has a personal name. He can never have a personal name.
2. All names of Allah are attributive name including the name Allah.
3. God can be referred in any language. There is no restriction of language. God is beyond the boundaries of language.
4. Its wrong to say that God has only 99 names. In fact there is no limit to names of God.
5. To God belongs most beautiful names.
Note: * If you don't agree with the mail then instead of giving fatwa of deviation / kufr / shirk / biddat - have faith in Allah and leave it to him to judge.
* Author: Khurshid Imam is software engineer at Bangalore, India. For any criticism / feedback / suggestion feel free to mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
The article can be found at http://khurshidimam.blogspot.in/2012/04/what-is-name-of-allah.html
The article can be downloaded in pdf from: http://www.scribd.com/KHURSHIDIMAM